The View from Bolton Street

“On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry”

This week in the Gospel of Luke we are reminded of John the Baptist’s Ministry with his famous line ‘you brood of vipers’.  Not everyone is very comfortable with John, and honestly that makes sense. He is a bit of a wild man, he has no problem calling out the truth and he sees them, and despite all the bathing a ‘Baptist’ would do — he does sound like he’s probably a little smelly.

But this week John is there at the Jordan proclaiming the following:

"Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

We could use a few more John the Baptist’s these days, if the news headlines are to be believed, couldn’t we?  Someone to call out corruption, to call out inequality, to call out poverty and to instruct us to share our food, or clothes and our wealth with each other. And not just on the Jordan River either. But on the Mississippi, the Colorado, the Potomac and even here on the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay.   

Instead we often get the opposite.  Wealthy businessmen saying we should arrest panhandlers; The Governor seeking to give away park land for a football stadium; political leaders looking the other way while corruption and self dealing becomes more and more of a reality in Washington; a local police department that continues to push back against any kind of civilian oversight.

As followers of Jesus, we should remember that Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist.  And if there is no one to cry on the banks of the Patapsco about land give-always, or on the banks of North Avenue about the treatment of the poor, then perhaps it is on us to do it?  To bring fresh eyes, fresh hopes and fresh dreams to places that is sorely lacking in all three.

Advent may be a good time for you to find your own river to cry over. Your own ministry to bring about.  Your own dream to fulfill.